Sides come through semi-final wrestle
UL Huskies’ Louise Galvin and Alison Maguire of Killester battle it out. Photograph: Inpho/Cathal Noonan
After three superb days of action in Cork, the 16 teams that will compete at the Basketball Ireland National Cup finals are now known.
The famous basketball venues of Neptune Stadium and the Parochial Hall in Cork rocked from Friday night until Sunday afternoon with the best teams from U18 to senior in action, vying for a spot in the biggest weekend in Irish hoops at the end of January.
The weekend got off to the perfect start on Friday night when the much anticipated Men’s National Cup semi-final meeting of league table toppers C&S UCC Demons and Killester produced a game for the ages.
By the time Demons had won by a single point in overtime, there was a feeling in Cork that all were in for a special weekend.
So it was, as Dublin Inter followed with a shock win over defending champions Bord Gáis Neptune later that night before bumper crowds once more descended on Neptune Stadium Saturday night for the Women’s Cup semi-finals.
While the first semi-final failed to flatter, with UL Huskies easily seeing off a Killester challenge dented by the foul trouble incurred by their star player Candace Bond, the clash of old rivals DCU Mercy and Team Montenotte resulted in another nail-biting finish that left Montenotte in the final and Mercy wondering what might have been.
The men’s and women’s National Cup semi-finals on Friday and Saturday may have grabbed the headlines and largest crowds, but there was no lack of drama in the U18, U20 cups either.
For many, the game of the weekend was the U18 Men’s National Cup thriller between Letterkenny Blaze and Fr Mathews of Cork that reached the very highest levels of play before Letterkenny eventually claimed victory, earning the chance to play Templeogue in the final.
The U20 men’s National Cup threw up one of the most surprising results of the weekend when the heavily touted Killester team fell to a superb second half comeback display from KUBS.
The other semi-final, meanwhile, saw an awesome Neptune display prove too much for a young Belfast Star.
Cork double header
The weekend was certainly one to remember for Brunell and Glanmire supporters as their U18 and U20 women’s teams advanced, setting the stage for a fascinating double header of National Cup finals between two keen Cork city rivals.
Brunell have the added incentive of trying to achieve something none have ever managed: putting together back to back years of winning both U18 and U20 National Cups.
For senior teams not in the Basketball Ireland Premier Leagues, the Men’s National Shield and Senior Women’s National Cup is their avenue to finals weekend in Dublin later this month.
The weekend’s play saw Team Left Bank Kilkenny and JM&L Auctioneers Titans emerge in the men’s, while Portlaoise Panthers and Tralee Imperials advanced in the women’s.